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Why ISN’T This Night Different?

matzohSeders and eating…a match made in…well, it all depends on your spiritual/religious perspective. Passover Seders will kick into gear this week and while the diversity of rituals is extensive, one common thread is singing the Dayenu song.  Dayenu, loosely translated means, “It would have sufficed, or it would have been enough.”  Rarely do we take time to check in with our lives and see what is working, what is good enough, and what is positive.  Too frequently we focus on what is left to be done, what is missing, what is not o.k., and obsess on fixing what we perceive as being broken.

Whether you are celebrating Easter or Passover or nothing at all, consider taking time this week to acknowledge and appreciate the things about you that are good enough, o.k. wonderful, smart, funny, quirky, all of the things that make you YOU.  And know that without you, this world would be a less unique and wonderful place.  That is not egotistical, that is not bragging, that is just fact.

I will be taking a bit of a blogger vacation but would like to leave you with the blog I wrote last year for Passover.  I hope it gives you a chuckle and a moment of feeling, “I’m not the only one.”  I also want to appreciate my readers, whether you comment on “Dr. Deah’s Tasty Morsels” or not, for taking time from what are certain to be extraordinarily busy lives, to “visit” with me once in awhile.

Dayenu

Passover is one of the many Jewish Holidays that is celebrated with a ritual feast. A feast filled with symbolic foods and a prescribed schedule for when to eat which foods.  Depending upon how observant the participants are, there is a wide range of recipes for the ritual readings at a Passover Seder. Some read from ancient texts, others from more progressive versions. Some are tailored for passionate political discussion, others for children with short attention spans.  Despite the diversity of the Seder itself, there are at least three specific commonalities adhered to by the most liberal and orthodox Jewish celebrants.

There is no leavening used in any of the meals, there are at least four cups of wine, and when it is time to eat, there are no restrictions on how much you can eat.

As a kid growing up, dieting and caloric restrictions were an everyday part of my life. I was surrounded by dieters. The youngest of three girls, my two older sisters always dieted and both of my parents did as well.  The diets never really seemed to work, none of us were thin.  My mother often chortled, “Imagine how fat we would all be if we didn’t diet?”  And of course I believed her and followed suit.

Many young girls that diet wind up becoming sneak eaters and I was no different. Because we are forced to satisfy our hunger

I am a Beast Stuffing my Face

I am a Beast Stuffing my Face

and cravings privately, we develop the notion that we are beasts with insatiable appetites.  Our appetite for food is freakish and our need to satiate this hunger is so strong we must adopt furtive methods of feeding that monster.  It is a double bind.  We feel weak in our inability to resist the urges to eat the “bad” food and yet the part of us that is demanding the food is a formidable foe of great strength and power.  We are split and fractured around food.

Passover and other food centric holidays present a double bind for people already struggling with feelings about:

*what they eat

*what they don’t eat

*what they would like to eat if they were allowed to eat what they wanted to eat

And so we struggle.

The Double Bind of Feasts as Rituals: A Two Act Play

Act One:

The week before The Seder, we obsess over what to wear. An unsanctioned but equally predictable ritual of Passover is:

The Body Scan; everyone checking you out to see how you “measure up” to the last time you were all together.  In my family, despite the fact that very few of us were thin, there was still a hierarchy within the ranks that clearly labeled the “Always Thin” relatives as the better ones. The praise and attention was lavished on them. My jealousy dripped like honey in a nice glass of tea.

Then there were the “Always Fat.”  They were already “fats de complis.” They would always be fat and that was that, “Those poor people.”

Newly Thin” were the ones I envied the most.  The attention they received, the fawning, the exclamations of, “How did you do it? You look amazing!” They were the stars of the night. Somehow they had conquered the beast, they had become successful.

Conversely, the lowest caste of the crew was reserved for the “Fat Again” or “YO YO’s” those who had lost but gained their weight back plus more. The “tsks tsks” and “cluck clucks” of the tongues, the subtle shakes of the heads, the implied message of, no-more-diets“If I had lost that weight I would have kept it off,”… or more blatantly, “I knew she or he couldn’t do it.” They were the ones my heart ached for and the club I dreaded ever joining. (Of course I was in and out of that club numerous times until I realized that it was the dieting that was creating the largest part of my problem).

 

Act Two:

So I would go to Seders ready for my “close ups Mr. De Mille,” and often encased in tight body control top pantyhose literally binding my belly. But the second bind of the double bind was not far away.  After the reading of the ritual story of Passover, the feast would commence. Places everyone!  But wait!  It was as if they had replaced the cast with all new people and all new scripts.

SoupAll of a sudden size or weight was inconsequential.  There was a resounding chorus of, “Eat eat!” And, “Have more, what you don’t like my matzo balls?  This is no time to diet, this is Passover, forget about it for just one night, you look fine!”  And for the next couple of hours I felt normal. I felt happy. I felt I could eat with abandon and enjoyment. I could savor the pleasure of food, slowly, languidly and not worry whether I was leaving crumbs behind me like a guilty Gretel who subconsciously wanted to get caught eating Ring Dings in my bedroom.

I didn’t feel insatiable, or monstrous. I felt calm and in control. I had PERMISSION!

Why is this night different from all other nights?

Because on this night I was (and am) allowed to eat my fill in public…without guilt and with enjoyment. The control top panty hose are gone and replaced with self-acceptance.

Epilogue:

The irony of course, is once I really GOT THAT…Once I realized that I could live EVERY day and approach EVERY meal like that, there was actually one LESS reason why this night is different from all other nights! And that is a beautiful thing!

Dayenu.

Til next time,

Dr. Deah

If you missed the wonderful podcast I did with Kaila Prins, Finding Our Hunger, here are the links.

[PODCAST] http://findingourhunger.com/unmedium [BLOG POST] http://inmyskinnygenes.com/unmedium

 Conferences of Interest

April 9-12, 2015: American Society of Group Psychotherapists and Psychodrama (ASGPP) conference in Philadelphia, PA. CLICK HERE for info.

April 16-17, 2015: National Eating Disorders Information Centre Conference (NEDIC), in Toronto, Canada. CLICK HERE for info.

April 25-28, 2015:  New York State Therapeutic Recreation Association (NYSTRA) 20th annual conference, in Sarasota Springs, New York. I am honored to be the Keynote Speaker for this event!  For info please contact Daniele Fish at: dfish@forthudson.com

April 30, 2015:  Deadline for CFP for the 3rd Annual International Weight Stigma Conference September, 18-19, 2015 in Reykjavik, Iceland. CLICK HERE for info.

June 5-6, 2015:  Eating Disorders in Sport Conference, in St. Louis, MO.  CLICK HERE for info

July 17-19, 2015:  Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) Conference, in Boston, MA. CLICK HERE for info.

October 1-3, 2015: The National Eating Disorders Association’s (NEDA) annual conference in San Diego, CA. CLICK HERE for more info.